Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 1: No 1) >> Simms on Melville in the Southern Quarterly Review >> Page 32

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Reviews/Essays | 1849-10 - 1852-10
Transcription Mardi : and a Voyage Thither. By HERMAN MELVILLE. In two
volumes. New-York : Harper & Brothers. 1349.

MR. MELVILLE is well and favorably known as the writer of two very
pleasant books of South Sea experience, in which the critic persuaded
himself that he found as many proofs of the romancer, as of the histo-
rian. Mr. Melville alludes to this doubt and difficulty, and somewhat
needlessly warns us that, in the present work, we are to expect nothing
but fiction. His fiction takes the form of allegory rather than action or
adventure. His book, in fact, is a fanciful voyage about the world in
search of happiness. In this voyage the writer gives a satirical picture
of most of the deeds and doings of the more prominent nations, under
names which preserve the sound of the real word to the ear, while
slightly dieguiaing it to the eye. In this progress, which is a somewhat
monotonous one, the author gives us many glowing rhapsodies, much epi-
grammatic thought, and many sweet and attractive fancies ; but he spoils
every thing to the Southern reader when he paints a loathsome picture
of Mr. Calhoun, in the character of a slave driver, drawing mixed blood
and tears from the victim at every stroke of the whip. We make no
farther comments.
SQR, 16 (Oct. 1849), 260-261.

Redburn : His first voyage. Being the Sailor-boy Confessions
and Reminiscences of the Son of a Gentleman, in the Merchant-ser-
vice. By HERMAN MELVILLE. Author of "Tyree," etc. New
York : Harper & Bros. 1849.
A VOLUME in direct contrast with " Mardi," being rather cold and
rosaiel while that was wild, warm and richly fanciful. " Redburn,"
wever, is much more than " Mardi," within the range of the popu-
lar sympathies. It is a book fashioned somewhat after the school of
Defoe and Marryatt, partaking of the simplicity and employing the
numerous details which constituted the striking features of these
writers. But " Refllmrn," as n character, is not symmetrically drawn.
IIe forgets his part at times ; and the wild, very knowing and bold
boy asliore, beeoimws a sneak, and a numbseull aboard ship. The
portraiture is thus far faulty. There is another defect in the book.
All that foreign grafting, which shows us the scion of nobility at a
gaming house in London, and subsequently, as a sailor-boy, in sundry
fantastic scenes, is by no means proper to such a story. But the
truth is, the author has an imagination which naturally becomes res-
tive in the monotonous details of such a career as that of "• Redburn ;"
and, in breaking away from bonds self-imposed, does not suffer him
to see how much hurt is done to his previous labors. The transition
was quite too rapid from " Mardi" to "Redburn," wild, improbable
and fantastic as was that allegorical production, it is more in proof of
real powers in reserve, than either of the books of this author.

SQR, 17 (Apr. 1850), 259-260.